French critics dub EL James's erotic phenomenon boring, cliched and without literary merit, despite huge print run
So as French bookshops prepare to take stock of the British bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey – or as it is called in French, Cinquante Nuances de Grey – on Wednesday morning, our Gallic cousins would like us to know that they have nothing to learn from us Anglo-Saxons in matters of sadomasochism.
In fact our neighbours are deeply unimpressed with the so-called "mummy porn", or, as the French have translated the term, porn de ménagère (housewife) trilogy by the British writer EL James.
It is perhaps not surprising that the country that spawned what one magazine called "the heavyweights of erotic literature" – the Marquis de Sade and the Story of O, coincidentally republished this week – should be sniffy about a mere bestseller of 40m copies in 46 countries.
But the critical mauling the British book has received is brutal. Les Inrocks magazine asked if it marked a "cultural shock between the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy and the old authentic SM of the French". It described James's offering as "sadomasochism light … and flavourless", full of "insignificant, consensual and cliched" content and the "fantasies of a cheap sex-shop". James's book, it said, contained none of the "philosophy" of the relationship between master and slave.
Fifty Shades of Grey, the first novel in the trilogy, recounts the meeting of Anastasia Steele and her submission to and obsessive love for Christian Grey, a handsome billionaire with a predilection for bondage and domination. It became the fastest-selling paperback since records started and is the first ebook to have sold more than 1m copies. In a television interview the author Erika Leonard said the book was her "midlife crisis writ large".
But many French critics have dismissed the trilogy as "Mills & Boon", and without any literary merit. Le Figaro carried an article on the "20 most ridiculous quotes from" Fifty Shades of Grey. To emphasise its lack of literary credentials, it also published the cover next to 50 letters from the Marquis de Sade to his wife.
Full story at The Guardian